Adam Zebib closed his restaurant this summer for about seven weeks. When he reopened on Aug. 14, it had a new name, look, and menu.
As the name would imply, the Brunch Club at 378 George St. is serving Belgian waffles, shrimp and grits, eggs Benedict, biscuits in sausage gravy, mimosas, and more.
It’s a drastic change compared to the burger-dominated menu that was offered at the Brunch Club’s predecessor in the space, the George Street Ale House.
The change was prompted by New Brunswick diners’ evolving habits in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Zebib said.
“To me, from what I can tell at least in this area, Friday and Saturday night, people aren’t out like they were,” he said.
Traditional eating patterns have been thrown out the window like three-week-old leftovers, and to prove his point, a group of coworkers from a local office just happened to stop in one afternoon last week to order six espresso martinis.
“People drink during the day,” Zebib said. “That’s one thing I realized is that was a lot more infrequent during COVID, that people would stop in and buy cocktails during the day. But now, people have one to two drinks with lunch. We sell mimosas all the time, sangria. I just came out with a new margarita mimosa.”
It’s interesting that Zebib has become such a savvy restaurateur considering that owning a restaurant was never part of a plan. He became an investor and a silent partner in Sliders, which predated the George Street Ale House. In 2010, however, circumstances led to Zebib becoming the one-and-only owner.
There was a steep learning curve as Zebib pivoted from a career in the mortgage business. He soon rebranded the restaurant, and the George Street Ale House became a staple for diners looking for some late-night comfort food or who wanted to knock back some beers while watching a ballgame.
The Brunch Club is meant to be a quieter, more inviting, and more open space.
He’s added new light fixtures and made the back bar tidier and more attractive. He fabricated the new light-grain tables in his garage over the summer. He’s added a coffee bar and converted a small office at the back of the room into a DJ booth.
As much as the Brunch Club was born to meet ever-changing tastes and dining habits, it also gave Zebib a chance to expand and elevate the menu and develop all the recipes.
Although there was a smattering of brunch choices on the Ale House’s menu and Zebib claims to have been serving brunch options before it was trendy, new dishes such as the steak and egg hoagie are front and center at the Brunch Club. The toasted hoagie is loaded with an egg cooked to your liking and heaping helpings of cheesesteak. It's all covered in a blanket of cheese and served with seasoned potatoes.
“I realized that people are going to drink no matter what,” Zebib said. “If you give them a place with alcohol, they’re going to come in and they’re going to drink. But, if you have good food and you’re known for that food, they can’t get that anywhere else.
“That cheesesteak, nobody else in town has it," he added. "But everybody can get a can of Head Hunter (beer) down the street at another bar. Somebody else can make you a margarita. I might make you a better margarita, but a margarita is a margarita.”
Story & Photo By: Chuck O'Donnell